Location Ica Peru | Dates June 29-30 | Accommodation Dunas Lodge
We were told repeatedly not to go to Ica; it wasn’t exciting, nothing to do, etc. We went anyway and absolutely loved it. Just a few minutes away from Huacachina, Ica seemed a world away. Huacachina’s widely touristy natural oasis was replaced with a bustling, authentic city filled with street food, exhaust and speeding mototaxis — and best of all, no tourists! The two cities couldn’t be more dissimilar.
We grabbed a cheap cab, getting stuck in traffic, and approached our hostel — which looked horrific. A single dim yellow sign stating “hospedaje” (lodging) leading into a narrow cement alley without a door. Thank god, when we entered it was normal and actually nice.
Streets of Ica Peru
We set out to explore at night, seeing loads of street food, people cooking roadside, billiards halls with smoke coming out, shops, and restaurants. The town was bustling with lights and people and the omnipresent mototaxis; it didn’t feel unsafe. We explored the following day, too, starting in the Plaza de Armas (main square), with the usual fountain, park, benches, and overpriced restaurants. We then wound down side streets to bustling, dirty, local authentic markets, planning to walk to a bodega (winery – the area is known for the best in Peru).
Suddenly, a strange man approached us and said “Do not walk this way. It’s dangerous. They will rob you.” We turned around, but as soon as he left determined it would be fine, we didn’t know another way, and continued walking the way he warned us against. Suddenly, a lady emerged from her flooring shop and demanded, “Where are you going?” She reiterated a warning: “Absolutely do not go that way. It’s dangerous. They will rob you.” A third lady (rando) on the street then chimed in “Don’t walk there! Stay in the plaza!” At this point we decided it was a bad idea and didn’t want to find out who “they” were so we turned back.
Dining in Ica Peru
We tried a Lonely Planet reco (huge mistake as always), and were greeted by an overzealous bearded restaurant owner. He forced us to take a seat, told us he didn’t have a menu just “recommendations” (meanwhile a menu was on the table behind us), and launched into some lengthy dishes 4x the price expected. We obviously moved on, into a random local spot called Dona Clarisa for only 8 sole (2+ USD) each. Delicious meal, as usual, and a strong element of surprise when I got a meal I didn’t expect (I didn’t like it, either, but I just shared Sarah’s huge portion). We got an unknown yellow juice/water with our menu. “I shouldn’t drink this juice,” I said as I drank the juice. There was a chicken foot in the soup.
Ica was awesome for eating on the street! Almost every item cost only 1 sole (30 cents, USD). We had… Churros || Sarah greedily ate churros after dinner while we walked back to our hostel. When licking the sugar off her lips, she mistakenly made eye contact with a strange, sketchy man on the street (10pm).
Causa Rellena || Chicken and carrots and peas in a potato, with some mayo-type sauce on the side (I had to ask a man at another table to use his sauce) Chocolate y Tejas || Chocolate with caramel and nuts inside Mandarinas || Mandarin oranges, 8 for 1 sole (30 cents)!!!
Bolas || Balls of dough fried, dipped in caramel (6 per order) Dough & Corn Syrup || Some sort of item packaged in a square, absolutely delicious (We got it from the same lady as the balls by accident; she was so happy — and complimented Sarah’s Spanish) Hot Dogs || Sarah was obsessed, in a fresh roll from a cart, only 1 sole Sweet Potato Chips || Fresh and hot, delicious.
The area is known for bodegas, or wineries, and pisco distilleries. As we had to take the taxi, we choose to visit the preeminent one, Tacama. We bumped along for 20 minutes outside the city, through small outskirt towns and then fields and vines, until arriving at a massive pink bodega.
We had to pay extra because it was a holiday, which was annoying. The tour started with a quick horse dancing show, which we later accidentally said in the middle of. The atmosphere was amazing, the wine too sweet (as the region was known for), the pisco absolutely vile and not suitable for drinking straight. We got a bottle of vino and sat in the grass. At one point I spilled a bit, “I don’t know what happened” I said. Although what happened was I dropped it. We grabbed an unlicensed taxi back (it was convenient he was waiting) which sped past literally every vehicle on the road. Sarah tried to affix her seat belt, to which he said “no.” So we didn’t wear seatbelts. Back at the hostel, the owner invited us into her home (below hostel rooms) upon checkout and showed us a grainy YouTube video of a fat man in a leotard dancing.
Budget & Practicalities
Dining | Good menu for 7-10 soles. Chocolate y Tejas always 3 soles. Almost all street food only 1 sole.
Taxi | To/from Huacachina, only 10 soles. Motokar cheaper but dodgy. Around town 5 or so.
Walking | Not safe in some areas outside Plaza del Armas and surrounding. Ask before you go.